Ryan Walter of the Auburn Public Works Department maneuvers his boom truck into position May 24 at Festival Plaza. He and several others were installing the colorful canopies for what may be the last time. The city is planning a major redesign and development of the area in the coming year. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

AUBURN — The city is growing and the numbers point to a potentially significant growth pattern in the future, Mayor Jason Levesque told those at the LA Metro Chamber of Commerce breakfast Thursday at the Hilton Garden Inn.

As of this year, the city’s population stands at about 25,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Based on census data of an average three individuals per dwelling unit, and with roughly 2,500 units either permitted, being built or in the preliminary discussion phase, the mayor said he feels confident that 1,600 will be built and occupied by 2025, bringing the city’s population to about 30,000.

Levesque added that 351 units were permitted in May alone.

The focus is on market rate homes the mayor explained. “And currently all development over the past three years — and the ones in discussion — are a mix of market rate apartments, single family, owner-occupied duplexes and triplexes and 55-plus condos.”

“If we can carry that momentum,” Levesque said, “which I think we will easily based on location, space available and opportunities, then by 2030 we will hit 35,000.”

Assuming Bangor’s population does not increase at a similar rate, Auburn could become the state’s third largest city, and potentially the second largest, surpassing Lewiston. Bangor’s population declined 1.88% between 2010 and 2020, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures.


Maine has among the lowest birth rates in the nation, trailing only neighbors Vermont and New Hampshire, according to the U.S. Census Bureau estimates and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures. Yet, net migration was just over 16,000 in 2021, the third highest in the country. Net migration refers to the difference between the number of people moving into an area and the number moving out of an area.

Since 2012 the state has seen an increase of about 50,000 people in the state, according to state figures. At the same time the state saw a decline in workforce participation by 20,000 people. Some moved out of state, some retired, some went back to school and some just gave up looking for work.

Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque speaks Thursday at the LA Metro Chamber of Commerce breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn in Auburn. Christopher Wheelock/Sun Journal

Levesque said Auburn has embraced a policy of intrinsic growth for over 50 years — hoping the birth rate will exceed the death rate. It’s a practice that he says does not work. The alternative, Levesque said, is to focus on in-migration growth, which is getting more people to live in Auburn.

What many residents may not realize, according to Levesque’s data, is the daytime population in Auburn is over 65,000 people. “Those are people traveling up to an hour here to Auburn to work, to get services or go to school.”

But housing remains a huge obstacle here and in cities across the nation, and it is not unique to Auburn.

Levesque credits the local schools, colleges and community colleges for pushing the increase in bachelor or associate degree attainment. Grades are up and graduation rates are up too, he said.

“We want to encourage our youth to stay here,” he said. “They can go away for a couple of years, that’s fine. But they have to come back. We do that, we also turn them into ambassadors so we increase our in-migration. That’s where our success, our workforce success, is going to be.”

Partnerships with businesses who embrace pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships are important to building the area’s workforce of the future. Using a stool with three legs as an analogy, he said education plus housing plus quality of life are critical to the city’s growth. All three aspects are necessary for success.

The city’s future, the mayor believes, is dependent on education and workforce development.

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